The Trump administration more than doubled the number of judges it confirmed to federal appeals courts in 2018, exceeding the pace of the last five presidents and stocking the courts with lifetime appointees who could have profound consequences for civil rights, the environment and government regulations.
A new analysis by Lambda Legal, which advocates for the LGBT community, reports that five of the country’s 12 circuit courts are now composed of more than 25 percent of Trump-appointed judges.
Those courts play a major role in shaping the law, since they are often the destination of last resort. The Supreme Court agrees to hear only a small percentage of the petitions it reviews.
“Judges protect what we value most in society. No matter who you are, where you come from, what you look like, or who you love, we all deserve judges who can be fair and impartial,” said Sharon McGowan, legal director and chief strategy officer at Lambda Legal. “That’s why protecting our courts needs to be a two-party job. Democrats and Republicans alike owe it to the American people to ensure that the federal courts remain an impartial institution administering ‘equal justice for all,’ not just the wealthy and the powerful.”
Lambda Legal has closely followed the Trump judicial picks, because it argues the administration has been selecting candidates with a “hostility” toward LGBT people. That includes a judge who wrote that transgender people are “delusional,” and another who sat on the board of the Nebraska Family Alliance, which advocated for conversion therapy and against marriage equality.
To conservatives, the Trump approach to judges represents the administration’s most enduring legacy and a central reason he won the White House. Many of the Trump nominees are members of the Federalist Society, an elite group that has made a point of creating a pipeline of future judges.
Last year, at its annual gala, the group honored former Trump White House counsel Don McGahn and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — a nod to their success in confirming federal judges. In a year-end fundraising letter for 2018, the Society reported that its network now numbers 75,000 people and “we are on the eve of closing a calendar year that was hardly imaginable in our early days.”
It continued: “Our members–students, lawyers, law professors, legislators, public officials and more–are filling key positions in state and federal governments, in academia, and the private sector.”
The trend on judges is likely to continue this year, since Republicans hold 53 seats in the Senate. McConnell often points to confirming judges as a key success of the GOP-controlled Senate since Trump was elected. It’s a message that may have boosted the enthusiasm of conservative voters in the midterm elections, particularly with the heated confirmation battle over Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh coming just weeks earlier.